The MLS playoffs were completed with some outstanding work by PRO assistant referees. The Sporting Kansas City v Portland series saw some excellent use of VAR delay and a couple of fabulous offside decisions. Video review corrected a Line of Vision offside decision during the NY Red Bulls v Atlanta series, which we will discuss below, because the AR to Referee communication was textbook.
Congratulations to PRO assistant referees Katy Nesbitt and Felisha Mariscal for their selection to the Women’s World Cup Finals to be held next June! We are excited and proud that they will be representing all of us in France!
OFFSIDE - INTERFERING WITH OPPONENT
As you listen to this clip you will notice how the announcers cannot find where the offside decision is to be made, but eventually come around to see that a correct decision is made.
This is interfering with an opponent as the SKC attacker makes an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of the goalkeeper to play the ball.
Had the attacker stood still from his original offside position, it would not be an offside offence as there is no line of sight issue and he makes no attempt to play the ball. That the attacker makes physical contact with the goalkeeper makes this a relatively easy decision in regards to whether he interfered or not.
OFFSIDE - INTERFERING WITH OPPONENT 2
This offside decision is much more challenging for the assistant referee since it is a line of sight type of interfering with an opponent. The AR just does not have a good angle to tell if the keeper can see the shot taken, however the AR does everything right in the communication on this incident.
The AR correctly follows procedures and stays at the corner with no flag while he communicates to the referee that he has an attacker in offside position but is not sure if there is interference. The referee responds that he does not have any. Which is the normal/usual response from the referee for these situations as they are not concentrating on the position of players, but rather on their actions.
The AR was also correct to clearly define his question, by repeating it, so that there was no doubt that he had #19 in an offside position and was looking for help with line of sight. Later, once the play went to video review, the AR does not seem surprised at all. (Can be heard on the PRO VAR site).
VAR OFFSIDE DELAY
This is a rare “double” video review delay as both the AR and the referee delay the showing of their decision until the attack is completed with a goal. The flag goes up delayed for an offside decision and the referee blows a delayed whistle for a reckless foul.
In the pre-VAR world this just wouldn’t have happened, the foul would have been called and the offside flag would have negated any advantage the referee might want to apply.
Both the actions of the AR and referee are correct. Video review was able to check this goal and confirm that the offside decision was correct. The referee then chose to punish the first incident which was the reckless foul by Portland.
This is good teamwork.
Since we do not have a Call of the Week, we are just going to show this fine offside decision by Matt Nelson during the Sporting KC v Portland match. We just cannot let this great no offside decision slip by without being appreciated.
ANSWER - WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
In PRO’s opinion this is not an offside offence.
There is no doubt that the attacker in an offside position runs towards the ball, however at no time during that movement does he hinder or interfere with any defender. He does not prevent the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball and there is too much distance to say that he is challenging for the ball. Some may argue that the attacker is making an obvious action, however Law 11 states that that obvious action must clearly impact the ability of the opponent to play the ball which he does not.
We will mention, as an aside, that the AR’s movement on this play may have contributed to the dissent after the goal. Assistant referees should continue moving towards the goal line with the ball and not stop (presumably to wait to see if the attacker touches the ball). Even had the attacker interfered with play by touching the ball we would expect that the AR be in line with that attacker at the moment, not still in line with the second to last defender.